Jeff, Jesuit dreams denied
Jesuit and Jefferson won trophies in the Oregon Class 4A boys basketball tournament last week, but neither team was completely happy.
Jesuit nearly played its way into the state title game for a second straight year before imploding at the free-throw line during a 64-57 overtime loss to Hillsboro in the semifinals. The Crusaders made just 11 of 30 free throws in coughing up a 45-30 fourth-quarter lead.
Jesuit wound up sixth when it lost to Clackamas 63-58 on Saturday.
'It's heartbreaking to lose the way we did (to Hillsboro),' said Jesuit's Josh Tarver, who was voted all-tournament second team. 'We thought we had won and were going to the final again. Maybe we were a little too excited, that's why we missed so many free throws.'
Jesuit has a large cast of players coming back next season, led by Tarver, a sophomore, and his two brothers, Zach and Seth, a junior and freshman, respectively.
Jefferson beat South Salem 74-73 to finish fifth and claim a trophy for the fifth straight year. The Demos finished fourth in 1999, first in 2000, third in '01 and eighth in '02.
'We don't want to finish fourth, sixth and seventh to round out all the trophies,' coach Marshall Haskins said. 'We want to get back on top.'
The Democrats had four players score in double figures in Saturday's closing 74-73 win over South Salem. Sophomore forward Brian Morris tallied 15 points in that game, as Jeff ended the season with three straight wins.
Morris, a stringy 6-7 rebounder, should be a key player for the Demos next season. Jefferson also will return point guard Mac Hopson, who matured greatly during the season, and shooting guard Lathen Wallace.
Senior Thomas Gardner made the all-tournament first team despite reaching his season average of 25 points just once (in Friday's win over South Eugene). Gardner was just 7 of 30 from 3-point range in the tournament.
'It was frustrating not to make more of those shots,' Gardner said. 'I don't know if it was not enough arch, or too much arch. It was great to get so much help (against South Salem) with other guys scoring. That took a lot of pressure off me.'
In his best game, Gardner scored 18 of the Demos' 20 fourth-quarter points in the 71-65 victory over South Eugene. He warmed to the thought of leaving high school ball with a trophy.
'It's not the right hardware, but it's something,' he said. 'It's something for our community, for our followers, to keep our tradition going.'
Gardner said he has been invited to play in the Jordan Brand Capital Classic on April 17 in Washington, D.C. He plans to move to the University of Missouri in time for summer school.
Rumor mill: Will the Class 4A boys tournament move to Eugene? Will Lincoln boys coach Troy Berry move to Benson, his alma mater?
The 4A tournament was played in Eugene in its first year, 1919, and also from 1947-65. Declining attendance has the OSAA considering numerous ideas, from moving to the Chiles Center, where the girls tournament is played, to moving to McArthur Court in Eugene. It would be unfortunate to move the boys tournament out of Portland in a year in which the playoff format will change to eight teams. Once the tournament moves to Eugene, the OSAA still would have the same problem it has in Portland Ñ it doesn't have any idea of how to attract increasingly larger crowds.
Berry has a strong group of sophomores at Lincoln, but Benson's head coaching job might be the city's top high school position because of its basketball history, which includes Richard Washington and A.C. Green. Benson has appeared in the state final seven times since 1971, winning five titles. Berry helped the Techmen win the 1981 state title. Benson assistant Earl Clark is another top candidate for the position.